Book Reviews

Sharp Objects – Gillian Flynn Book Review

sharp-objects-by-gillian-flynnAfter the pleasant surprise I had reading “Dark Places” and “Gone Girl“, I thought nothing I read from Gillian Flynn would convince me more of the basic evil-ness of the human species.
I was wrong. So Wrong. I prayed after every chapter for it to be fiction. I hope such a town and such people do not exist. I hope to God such people do not exist in real life. I might be wrong.

This is the story of a girl who returns to her home town to report on the two brutal murders of young girls. The story of loss and reunion with loved ones. Of estrangement, of growing up and growing apart. Of deadly things that lurk in the shadows and of deadlier still in someone’s family. As I was reading hunched over my tablet, a friend approached me and asked what was I reading, that I looked so intense and taken?

There is nothing scarier than 13-year-olds with boobs.

She laughed but she looked at me quizzically, as I was losing my mind. And reading this book, I sure was.

Sharp Objects is a 2006 novel by American author Gillian Flynn and her debut novel. The book is brilliantly written, sharp and as cutting as it exposes the raw human emotions: pain, loss, envy, hate, fear and dominance. Love is lacking in this book and even the briefest of love scenes are nothing but animal-like copulations in the back seat of a car, fully dressed.

Motherly love – the purest and most tender of loves – is missing. The mother is a creature to be analysed and disected as it poisons the people around her, as her ministrations do not bring relief but more pain, as her calming touch is calculated. The family relations are governed by lies and mistrust and the friends of family have a hidden agenda. A solid 10/10 for this literary achievement.

The people of Wind Gap, Missouri, are very ugly and deformed. Not physically, but mentally – there is not a single redeeming feature, in any anyone from this town.anigif_enhanced-buzz-24811-1382130798-7_preview It is a town of hostile, judgemental, hypocritical, shallow mind people. A small town – the type I have been afraid to live in all of my life. Where everyone’s secrets are known by all and there is no new entertainment other than the lives of others. It reminded me a little of the life on the island of Harbour.

 

It is to this town that Camille Parker, the novel’s narrator, must return, and in Camille herself, we find the ugliest character of all. Her damage however is not entirely her own doing, but a result of circumstance, as we begin to discover as she returns to her family home. With an adored sister who died when Camille was 13, an incomprehensibly abominable mother, a step-father who never acknowledges her, and a disturbing half-sister she does not know, it is no wonder Camille is reticent about her return. Her editor however insists upon it, and so she finds herself reporting on what he believes to be the beginnings of a serial killing spree, and the killer is targeting children.

imagesCamille is a cutter, by her own words, “a snipper, a slicer, a carver, a jabber”. She was a “lingual conservationist”, a class freak, a tight and nervous person.

“For those who need a name, there’s a gift basket of medical terms. All I know is that the cutting made me feel safe. It was proof, Thoughts and words, captured where I could see them and track them.”

She started cutting herself after her sister died. In a town so small, where you could trip over people that knew things about you, she refused to let the town mark her so she marked herself. Her mother was affected by her sister’s death.

“She was not ready for its weight. People whispered comfort about Marian being called back to heaven, but my mother would not be distracted from her grief. To this day, it remains a hobby.”

 

Her mother shut herself away from people. She found the remaining daughter un-lovable. She was too sharp for her, cutting with her words, using herself as a weapon. She eventually remarried and had a second daughter, Amma. I must say I was completely repelled by Amma.

My idea of Amma
My idea of Amma

Beautiful, young, high breasted and spotless, she had a dark mind to match. She was whining for attention through the book, envious of the dead girls because they got more attention, doing everything she could to be on top of her popularity rankings in her school, leader of her female gang.

“Ah well, being conflicted means you can live a shallow life without coping to being a shallow person.”

As she investigates the people of the town, she sees the men and does not seem to consider them seriously as a threat.

“These men were never very interesting to me; they had no edges, and they were usually cowards. They instinctively fled any situation that might cause embarrassment or awkwardness.”

When reports come through from a little boy saying that he saw a woman whisper to him to be silent and take away one of the girls with her, Camille finds herself suspecting her mother. She remembers when her mother used to coo over small babies and when no-one was around, how she bit the baby to make him cry and then soothed him when the other women came back. This behaviour raised the first alarm bells but they were forgotten as Camille moved to the city and left her old life behind. Now, they are ringing loud and clear, warning of danger.

Her mother, sensing that her daughter was suspicious of her, turns her husband against her and even has some weird behavioural fall backs where she shows her true face:

“She circled the spot on my back that had no scars.

“The only place you have left” she whispered at me.

Her breadth was cloying and musky, like air coming from a spring well.

“Yes”

“Someday I’ll carve my name there” 

She shook me once, released me, then left me on the stairs with the warm remains of our liquor.”

When Camille calls her editor with news of the story, he shows concern and asks about her relationship with her mother.

“I thought being home might do you good, but … I forget sometimes parents aren’t always … good for their kids”

4301a6baa695f0057e5b3a6c3d732b96As the story unfolds we find out that Camille’s sister Marian died in suspicious circumstances and a nurse pointed out that the mother was making the child sick as the child looked to be in recovery until the mother would visit. She told Camille that her mother suffered from Munchausen syndrome by proxy. In the classic disease, the mother feels that there is some illness within her and wants to treat herself. In the Munchausen syndrome by proxy, the mother will continuously make her child sick so that the child would need her and she would feel wanted. She made both her daughters sick but only Marian needed her mother more. Camille was more strong-headed and willful and her mother could not operate her as easily as she did with Marian.

The mother did the same thing with Amma and Amma knew it! She would let herself be made sick by the mother so that she could control her better.

Sometimes if you left people do things to you, you’re really doing it to them.

nauseous-woman-in-white-leaning-over-toiletAs she contacts the police with the latest bit of info, she stages the last scene where only one will survive: her or her mother. Her mother would poison her through the night and she would fight it until morning to prove that she killed Marian and the little girls. Her scheme worked and her mother went behind bars and they found loads of substances in her blood from horse tranquillizers to unknown pills. As she takes Amma in and moves back to Chicago, she finds herself back in a peaceful life.

Had my mother truly been sick? And Marian? Amma and me? Sometimes I think illness sits inside every woman, waiting for the right moment to bloom

I thought the book would be ending by now but it still had one more surprise. I will not spoil it though and let you find out for yourselves.

Amma enjoyed hurting. I like violence she’d shrieked at me. I blame my mother. A child weaned on poison considers harm a comfort.

 

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